Young children in Hawaii learn how to enjoy the ocean safely in monthly free Ocean Clinics by Na Kama Kai.

Children ages 2-16 learn water safety, marine conservation, and stand up paddling in one-on-one lessons at the clinics held on beaches all over Oahu. Founded by pro surfer and waterman Duane DeSoto, the nonprofit’s mission is “to empower youth by creating, conducting and supporting ocean-based programs, specifically targeting ocean awareness & safety in order to increase the capacity of youth in the community through cultural & environmental education.”

At the most recent clinic, held at Haleiwa Beach on the North Shore, dozens of keiki took their turns on the water. Starting off with lessons in creating traditional Hawaiian wooden surfboards, the kids had a chance to sand and shape the wood both with modern sandpaper and the old fashioned way- with coral and beach sand.

From there it was time for lessons on the water. Certified volunteers, all expert watermen and women, each took a child out on the water. Younger and less experienced swimmers were safely buckled in life vests and paddled out to enjoy the water and the views. One lucky three year old observed a honu (green sea turtle) up close as it surfaced nearby. Older children, under close supervision, were assigned their own boards to paddle, and in the calm waters off Haleiwa kids as young as 6 practiced standing and paddling on their own.

After the 20 minute paddling session, the kids buckled their life vests and gathered to board outrigger canoes and experience a journey across the bay and up Haleiwa Stream, learning about the ecology and history of the area. Concluding the program is a lesson in geography and conservation, including the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the pollution problems facing wildlife on all the islands. Kids are encouraged to help clean up their section of beach, reminded of the dangers of littering, and charged with being good stewards of both the land and the sea.

In August, the clinic will be at Ewa Beach Park on the 14th, and September’s clinic is scheduled for the 11th at Kahana Bay on the windward side. Although the programs are free, donations for the hour and a half long program are welcomed.


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